Carolina De Robertis – Author Interview

It isn’t surprising that a creative soul would find solace and pleasure in the written word. Carolina grew up in three countries but she has always known she wanted to be a writer. She is celebrating the success of her first book (The Invisible Mountain) with her partner and nine month son in sunny Oakland, California and is hard at work on her second. Please enjoy getting to know this beautiful and talented author.

Moe: When did you ‘know’ you were a writer?

Carolina de Robertis

photo credit: Joanne Chan

Carolina De Robertis: When I was ten, my family moved to the United States and I tore through the Louisa May Alcott shelf in the public library, then vowed to dedicate my first book to her. I already loved reading and writing before that, but this was the experience that brought writing into full focus as my most cherished dream.

Moe: What inspires you?

Carolina De Robertis: The urge to express, however fleetingly or inadequately, the intricate, incandescent, improbable experience of being alive. The fact that books have fed and changed and opened me throughout my life, and I can think of few more humbling honors than to give back to the world of books a miniscule fraction of what it’s given me. The knowledge that the world is alive with stories—that people themselves are alive with stories—and all too often they go untold unless someone dedicates herself to the work of telling.

Moe: Every writer has a method to their writing. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Carolina De Robertis: I like to write in long swaths of time, because the longer I write, the deeper I sink into the world of the book. I don’t answer the phone or talk to anyone or acknowledge the existence of my email. On the best days, I emerge feeling that I’ve discovered amazing and unexplored terrains. And when the story takes over and reveals itself to you under your own hands, when the words seem to flow from a place that is both within and beyond you, it is possible to wrap up a writing day with the thought, today, I have truly lived.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Carolina De Robertis: My first novel took eight years, all told, though I had a full draft four years in. My second novel is going much faster. I do both—write forward with an unbridled sense of adventure, and return to cull and sculpt and shape coherence out of the wildness.

Moe: When you sit down to write is any thought given to the genre or type of readers?

Carolina De Robertis: I care deeply about readers—I am one myself, after all—but I don’t think about readers while I write. I keep my focus on what wants to be written, on what seems to be coming forward from that mysterious entity we sometimes call the Muse.

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Carolina De Robertis: I write freely. If I planned everything in advance and then adhered to it, I would bore myself—and then why should I expect anyone else to be anything but bored?

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?

Carolina De Robertis: My first novel, The Invisible Mountain, is set in Uruguay and spans 90 years, so I traveled there three times in the years during which I wrote it. I did a tremendous amount of research.

Moe: Where do your characters come from? How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters?

Carolina De Robertis: The main characters in my first novel are loosely based on my great-grandparents, grandparents, and people of my parents’ generation in Uruguay. Once a real person provides the initial spark for a character, however, I find that fiction at some point takes over and makes them their own. As for myself: I continue to find parts of myself in my own characters, where I least expect them. This never fails to astonish me.

Moe: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

Carolina De Robertis: I keep going. I keep showing up to the page, to freewriting, to the writing space, even if nothing is coming. I read books that inspire me, that open the creative fountain with the luminosity of their prose. I can’t stay blocked for long after an afternoon with Woolf, Joyce, Saramago, Borges, García Márquez, Lispector, Morrison, Faulkner…

Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Carolina De Robertis: 1) The publishing landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. 2) A huge amount of behind-the-scenes work, with many gifted hands involved, goes into getting a book into the hands of readers. 3) The publishing world is continuing to change dramatically.

Moe: What is your latest release about?

Carolina De Robertis: The Invisible Mountain traverses ninety years of Uruguayan history and culture through the eyes of three generations of women. From rural gaucho life and Italian immigrant experiences at the turn of the 20th century, to the revolutionary 60’s and the dictatorship that followed, I was hungry to explore and understand the legacies of this nation that is part of my heritage, a heritage both intimate and distant as I’ve never actually lived there. Having grown up in three other countries, writing this book was a way to write my way back into a connection with Uruguay—as well to connect with the grandparents and great-grandparents whose stories I’d listened to throughout childhood, and on whose lives the characters are based. I believe that novels can do this: that they can stretch your world open or knit it back together, or both, all at the same time.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Carolina De Robertis: I read voraciously and obsessively. I also love to find new ways to make my nine-month-old son laugh.

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Carolina De Robertis: Keep going. Go for broke. Follow your most ambitious, absurd, and spectacular visions, and trust that they have come to you for a reason. Don’t be afraid to work your butt off. Don’t be afraid to have fun—exhilarating fun—while you write. Read and read and read, especially authors whom you admire or who push you to think about literature in new ways. Don’t be afraid of messy drafts; that’s where the vitality comes in. Believe in Muses, however you might understand them. Make the time, steal the time, commit to the time. Get support, trust the process, or don’t trust the process but don’t get off the train. Whatever you do, keep going.

Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

Carolina De Robertis: I almost became a psychotherapist—I spent five years as a full-time rape crisis counsellor, and grew tremendously in bearing witness to people’s most intimate and wrenching stories. I could also have become a musician; I used to sing in choirs, play guitar and doumbek, and write my own songs, until my first novel demanded all of my attention. If it weren’t for writing I would make more music; but I have absolutely no regrets.

Moe: What is your favourite word?

Carolina De Robertis: Ineffable. Or: ecstasy. (And don’t they lead to each other, after all?)

Originally published 12/6/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Visit Carolina De Robertis’s official website.

Jacquelyn Mitchard – Author Interview

She lives in Madison, Wisconsin but travels to the sandy shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts where she teaches at her writers’ residence (One Writer’s Place). This author and journalist has been writing for thirty years along with raising a family of seven children (age four to twenty-three). With seventeen books published from adults to children and one on the way (there’s always one on the way) I’m thankful Jacquelyn Mitchard had the time to give some insight into her personal and writing life. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I did.

Moe: When did you ‘know’ you were a writer? Jackie Mitchard, author

Jacquelyn Mitchard: I always knew I was a storyteller, from babyhood on. It was how a person derived power in my family, the ability to elicit emotions and attention through a story, a poem, a song. I had my first poem published when I was ten. I didn’t plan to be a writer when I grew up but instead a research biologist. I was undone by math, so I suppose I began to write fulltime when I was twenty.

Moe: What inspires you?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: Weather, music, other peoples’ stories, life in my family, art – although usually photographic art. Great writing. My dogs, travel. There isn’t much left, is there?

Moe: Every writer has a method to his or her writing. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: If I’m writing, I’ll write from four to fifteen hours a day – depending on how much time I have and the needs of my family. If I’m doing research, usually that’s confined to work hours, nine to four.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: I write straight through and I do revise as I go forward. The foundation has to be plumb or almost plumb before I move on. Probably five months writing and five months research.

Moe: When you sit down to write is any thought given to the genre or type of readers?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: I don’t think of genre but of course I think of someone reading what I’m writing. If the audience is an adult audience, I’m not thinking of a gender. If the audience is a teen audience, I’m thinking not so much of vocabulary or gadgets or cultural reference as I am of a younger person’s emotional geography (it’s smaller but has more peaks and valleys).

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: I tend to want to “see the whole,” just as a firefighter assesses a scene before going through the door. But there are many changes that occur along the way toward that last sentence, and they’re based on what I learn and what’s possible.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: Oh yes, my gosh. Now, I don’t usually write about events in Ukraine or Paris (France) but if I did, I would go there. And if I write about a police officer, you can be sure I’ve spent time with her. If I write about cooking something, you can be sure I’ve made it. Often (too often!) I give my characters work that I know nothing about, but am interested in. Hence, I get lost in my research and I love it and it takes way too long.

Moe: Where do your characters come from? How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: Each of them is Jackie; each of them is someone I know; each of them is someone I wish I knew or regret ever having met. No one knows which is which.

Moe: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If yes, what measures do you take to get past it?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: No. It’s too costly emotionally and in every other way.

Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: I’ve learned it’s a business, much more so than I ever had to know at the beginning. I’ve learned that expectations have changed and that, even if you don’t want that, you can be “pigeon-holed” as one kind of writer. I’ve learned to be wise and diplomatic with editors, instead of shocked by their requests. I’ve learned that every book I write isn’t going to land out on Waveland Avenue.

Moe: What is your latest release about?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: It’s not a SEQUEL to The Deep End of the Ocean. Sequels and series happen in sequential time. Although No Time to Wave Goodbye takes place thirteen years after the end of The Deep End of the Ocean (and they are the same characters, who are 13 years older), I did it because I was drawn back to the scenes of my youth – in part because of getting back in touch with some high school friends and doing a great deal of remembering. Through that, I suddenly realized that I knew what had happened to Vincent, the older son in my first novel. And I wanted to write about that. I’ll write about these characters again, although not all the time.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: I sleep. I play with my kids or go on dates with them to the movies. I go out with my husband and go to garage sales with my friends and to Pilates class. It’s a very jet-set type of life.

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: Read more than you think you have to. Learn from your betters not by reading books about writing (Stephen King and Eudora Welty pretty much cover that, as well as Anne Lamott) but actual good books of the kind you want to write. Tivo your favorite TV shows and watch four at a time so you don’t interrupt your reading time. Don’t use “impact” as a verb.

Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: A singer.

Moe: What is your favorite word?

Jacquelyn Mitchard: I have four: Massachusetts. Smite. Umbrage. Gloaming. Of those four, Massachusetts.

Originally published 11/19/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Visit Jacquelyn Mitchard’s official website.

Elizabeth Nunez – Author Interview

While others are still counting sheep this University Professor, and single mother of one, from New York is stringing together the words of future novels. An demiurgic act she has been performing for more than thirty years that has led to the publication of seven novels: When Rocks Dance; Beyond the Limbo Silence; Bruised Hibiscus; Discretion; Grace; Prospero’s Daughter; and her latest Anna In-Between. Enjoy getting to know Elizabeth Nunez.

Moe: When did you ‘know’ you were a writer? Elizabeth Nunez, author

Elizabeth Nunez: From the time I was a kid and read my first books and discovered the pleasures of the imagination.

Moe: What inspires you?

Elizabeth Nunez: Well written novels.

Moe: Every writer has a method to their writing. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Elizabeth Nunez: I like writing in the early morning, before I do anything else.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Elizabeth Nunez: I write right through and afterward revise, some passages as many as ten times. It takes about two years before I let someone read a draft.

Moe: When you sit down to write is any thought given to the genre or type of readers?

Elizabeth Nunez: No. For me, writing is a journey of discovery. I write about topics/issues/ questions that concern or trouble me. I create a world with characters and have them live through situations that address the questions I have. Hopefully, I discover answers. I invite readers to join me in that journey of discovery.

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Elizabeth Nunez: I plot as I go along. The writing gives me the direction and I may plot one chapter ahead as the writing inspires me.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?

Elizabeth Nunez: Some books require more research than others, but I do research the period and place when and where a novel is set. I may also research an incident that is related to the situations my characters confront. But I always transform these facts into fiction, in other words, I always feel free to change details of these facts as they fit into my imaginative world.

Moe: Where do your characters come from? How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters?

Elizabeth Nunez: My characters are often a combination of people I either know directly or indirectly. But none of these people exist in my fiction in the way they exist in life. I write an imaginative rendering of these people as the narrative directs.

Moe: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If yes, what measures do you take to get past it?

Elizabeth Nunez: Not really. When I am stumped, I read good books or parts of books for inspiration and courage.

Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Elizabeth Nunez: The publishing industry is a business; its eye is on the bottom-line. If your book does not garner readers to make a double-digit profit for your publisher, you will be discarded no matter how brilliant your work. Unfortunately, writers have to become salespersons. Sometimes they spend more time marketing/promoting their work than the actual writing. An alternative is a small press that may be satisfied with single-digit profits and will enthusiastically support a well-written work.

Moe: What is your latest release about?

Elizabeth Nunez: Anna In-Between is essentially about the universal need for belonging, to a family, a community, a country. Anna, the main character, who has a successful publishing career in the U.S., is the daughter of an upper-class Caribbean family. While on vacation in the island home of her birth she discovers that her mother, Beatrice, has breast cancer. Beatrice categorically rejects all efforts to persuade her to go to the U. S. for treatment, even though it is, perhaps, her only chance of survival. Anna and her father, who tries to remain respectful of his wife’s wishes, must convince her to change her mind. The novel explores the age-old love-repulsion relationship between mother and daughter, the Freudian overtones in the strong feelings between daughter and father, and the mutual respect that is essential for a successful marriage. Central to the novel’s themes, however, is the dilemma of the immigrant.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Elizabeth Nunez: Listen to classical music, read, go to movies and concerts, spend time with family.

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Elizabeth Nunez: Read, read, read. Revise, revise, revise your work.

Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

Elizabeth Nunez: I am both a professor and a writer. If I weren’t a writer, I’d probably be a university administrator.

Moe: What is your favorite word?

Elizabeth Nunez: But.

Originally published 11/10/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Sarah Dunant – Author Interview

After twenty five years and eleven books, Sarah Dunant wouldn’t dream of switching careers; unless she suddenly woke up with a voice — singing that is. Extensive research and raising two children has kept her pretty busy. She currently divides her time between London and Florence. How dreamy is that? Her latest release, Sacred Hearts is about a young woman in Renaissance Italy who is forced into a convent against her will. Read on to learn more about her, writing, and her novels.

Moe: When did you ‘know’ you were a writer?

Sarah DurantSarah Dunant: I think the moment must have been when I sat down at fifteen years old and started to write a short novel about Elizabeth’s first imprisonment in the Tower of London in the 1540’s. It was written in an exercise book covered with left over wallpaper from my parent’s house. It had, I seem to remember, about four adjectives to every noun and luckily it got lost somewhere in my life so it can never be produced as evidence against me.

Moe: What inspires you?

Sarah Dunant: That there are so many things I don’t yet know and have so little time to learn them in. Right at present, I am intoxicated by the richness of history. There is much to learn about the forces that made people who they were in the past, the lives they lived, and the great challenge offered to a writer to try and bring them alive for a contemporary audience.

Moe: Every writer has a method to their writing. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Sarah Dunant: I am very driven. I get up at 8.30, go to gym, swim for twenty minutes, come home, make a cup of coffee, sit down at the computer and don’t leave until I am too tired to think any more. Some days it flows, some days it doesn’t but even at its worst, I never look at the clock. That is how absorbing it is.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Sarah Dunant: Along with research which takes at least nine months to a year, maybe two and half years from idea to delivery. And I revise constantly. I think one of my mantras would be “all writing is rewriting…”

Moe: When you sit down to write is any thought given to the genre or type of readers?

Sarah Dunant: No. It is hard enough to write without having to constrict yourself by thinking of a particular genre or a particular audience. In the end you have to write for yourself and for the power of the story and hope that if you get it right others – whoever they are – will want to read it.

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Sarah Dunant: When I started, I used to plot a lot more than I do now. But I cut my literary teeth on thrillers and they take a great deal of plot construction. They instilled in me an almost innate sense of pace, so that now I can be more free wheeling. The more confident I have gotten, the less I know what I am doing when I start. That way, as you get to know the characters better (and the unfolding story) they take you in directions which you could not have imagined when you started. If you surprise yourself, you will also surprise the reader. Working in history, the research and things you discover on the way often suggest the twists and turns you need to keep the pages turning.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?

Sarah Dunant: A huge amount. My last three novels have been set during the Italian renaissance in Italy, so before I type the first word I need to do almost a mini history degree on the place, the moment, the history and the people. Luckily I love it: sitting in libraries with a whole world unfolding in my lap. For The Birth of Venus, I spent months in Florence digging into the 15th century. For In the Company of the Courtesan, I lived for a short while in Venice. And for Scared Hearts, set in a convent, I spent time in the city of Ferrara, but also in a modern convent! That was the most arduous piece of research I ever did, as it involved getting up at 4.00 am in the morning to attend Matins service along with the nuns.

Moe: Where do your characters come from? How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters?

Sarah Dunant: My characters come from history. That is not to say they are known historical figures — far from it. I use the history and all the detail of research, large and small, to bring to life imagined characters and then watch how they behave as they are plunged into the historical forces around them.

I never consciously write about either myself or anyone I know. I feel strongly that fiction should be just that. Fiction, made up, not stolen from other peoples lives. Luckily working in the 16th century means I have no option but to make it up, since no one has first hand experience I can draw on!

Moe: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If yes, what measures do you take to get past it?

Sarah Dunant: Yes, and it is the most terrifying thing in the world. Sometimes it is because you have not thought deeply enough about the story or the characters, but sometimes it is just how it is. There is no “cure” or easy fix. All you can do is sit it out. But the longer I write, the longer I realize that being lost is also part of the process. So now I accept that at some point I will be in despair. And that out of it will come solutions and hard won triumphs.

Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Sarah Dunant: That you just have to do it. However hard, however, scary, you have to get to the keyboard every morning and stay there.

That it will often get worse before it gets better.

And don’t worry about being afraid. Everybody is.

Moe: What is your latest release about?

Sarah Dunant: Sacred Hearts is the third in a set of novels about women in Renaissance Italy at a time when half of all noble women were put into convents because it was too expensive to marry off all daughters to a flesh and blood husband. It is set entirely behind the walls of a convent and is the story of young woman who is forced in against her will and is determined to get out. Along the way, it is about rebellion, friendship, betrayal, the clash between strict religion and a more loving God, the drama and power of ecstasy, and the strange but sometimes enormously creative life of nuns.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Sarah Dunant: I listen to music. Dance. And travel.

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Sarah Dunant: I think I have already said it. Keep on whatever the pain. Don’t listen to the voice that says you can’t do it: it is lying. Remember that the best things in life are not always easy.

Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

Sarah Dunant: A singer. But only if I woke up tomorrow and found I had a voice.

Moe: What is your favorite word?

Sarah Dunant: Imagine.

Originally published 10/29/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Visit Sarah Dunant’s official website.

Leila Cobo – Author Interview

Journalist, Leila Cobo has been writing professionally for fifteen years. She is the author of Tell Me Something True, her debut novel, and has contributed to several collections. She lives in Key Biscayne, Florida with her husband and their two children Allegra and Arthur. I hope you enjoy getting to know this talented writer:

Moe: When did you ‘know’ you were a writer?

Leila Cobo: When I was very young. I’d say elementary. Like most writers, I love to read and I devoured fiction as a child. English was my favorite subject as much for the reading as for the writing. I didn’t see myself as a novelist then, but as a journalist.

Moe: What inspires you?

Leila Cobo: Real stories. I love to take real accounts and fictionalize them. I am convinced that truth is indeed far rarer than fiction, and those unique stories—or even the most mundane ones—make for the best tales.

Moe: Every writer has a method to their writing. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Leila Cobo: I need to find a chunk of time to get into my “fiction” mode, so most of the time, I write fiction at night, when my house has gone to sleep, so to speak. I sit on the couch with a little glass of wine and just submerge myself in the characters.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Leila Cobo: Hard for me to say as I’m only on my second book! But when I finally sit down to write, I am a fast writer.

Moe: When you sit down to write is any thought given to the genre or type of readers?

Leila Cobo: None at all. I write the stories I want to write and then I let my very wise editor decide who they are for.

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Leila Cobo: I always write freely. I do sit with an idea and a storyline in my mind, but the storyline changes constantly as the book acquires a life of its own.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?

Leila Cobo: I definitely do research. It’s very important for me to be able to very clearly picture who and what I’m writing about. If I don’t have a clear image of the person in my head, for example, I find a photograph of someone who I think resembles the character in my mind. If I describe a town, I almost necessarily need to have been there. If just gives reality to my description.

Moe: Where do your characters come from? How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters?

Leila Cobo: My characters are entirely fictional, but many of their traits—physical and otherwise—do come from other people. I’d say they’re a mix of fact, fiction and of many personalities merged into one.

Moe: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? What do you do?

Leila Cobo: I do. I close the computer. I find that when I’m not in a writing mode, my writing just isn’t that good and I end up having to redo it anyway.

Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Leila Cobo: You have to self-promote. Trust your editor. Books are marketed different from any other product.

Moe: What is your latest release about?

Leila Cobo: My debut novel, “Tell Me Something True”, is the story of a Colombian/American girl that discovers the truth about her mother through her own journey of self-discovery. The idea came from my own experiences as a mother, as someone who lives between two worlds and as a daughter.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Leila Cobo: Read!! Also, I love spending time with my family and friends. Long dinners with good food and plenty of wine, good movies and working out are favorite pastimes.

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Leila Cobo: Never stop trying. Writing is tough and publishing is tough. You just have to believe very strongly in what you do because the world is full of nay-sayers.

Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

Leila Cobo: An actress. Although I’m also a pianist.

Moe: What is your favourite word?

Leila Cobo: Ay.

Leila Cobo’s books are available from Amazon.com

Visit Leila Cobo’s official website.

Hope Edelman – Author Interview

Writing has been a passion of Hope’s since she was six years old. And fortunately it has been a career for twenty years. Her outlet for things wordy is divided between the act of writing and teaching others to write — a dual compliment. Hope Edelman lives in Topanga Canyon, California with her husband and two pre-teen daughters. You may know her best from the international bestseller Motherless Daughters. Her articles and essays have appeared in both journalistic and literary publications. The Possibility of Everything, her fifth book, is now in print. Please enjoy getting to know Hope Edelman.

Moe: When did you ‘know’ you were a writer?

Hope EdelmanHope Edelman: In the first grade. My teacher, Mrs. Masarky, put stars at the top of my illustrated stories and told me I should be a writer. When my first book came out she attended a reading in my hometown and sat in the front row, beaming and saying “I knew it!” to everyone in the room.

Moe: What inspires you?

Hope Edelman: A quiet, uncluttered room with a desk that faces a blank wall.

Moe: Every writer has a method to their writing. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Hope Edelman: I start with a cup of coffee (or three), answer emails, write for an hour or two, putter around a bit doing random activities, write for a few more hours, then pick up my kids from school.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Hope Edelman: I revise as I go, reworking each chapter over and over until I feel it’s ready to show. Each chapter usually goes through 6 or 7 drafts before I ask my editor or my writing group for feedback, then probably another 4 or 5 drafts before it’s ready for publication. It’s a slow method, though. I’ve never written a book in less than two years.

Moe: When you sit down to write is any thought given to the genre or type of readers?

Hope Edelman: I only write nonfiction (so far) so I don’t need to make a genre choice. My first four books were all for women who wanted to explore their mother-daughter relationships, or lack thereof. In other words, a very well-defined audience. My newest book is for a more general audience. I didn’t have an image of a particular kind of reader in mind for it, so I just tried to write as authentic and honest a story as I could in the hope that it would speak to a small slice of everyone.

Actually, I did first consider writing it as a novel, since I didn’t think anyone would believe it was a true story. That lasted for about four laborious and futile months. Then I reworked the book as a memoir and the writing went much quicker from there.

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Hope Edelman: I create an outline in advance, but I don’t feel compelled to stick to it. I like the security of having a plan more than I like having to stick to a plan.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?

Hope Edelman: It depends on the book. My first four were journalistic in nature, and I did about a year of interviews and library research for each one before I even wrote a paragraph. The fifth book is a memoir set partly in Belize. About halfway into writing it I went back down to Belize to do on-the-ground research. I wound up making a total of four trips to get all information I needed.

Moe: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If yes, what measures do you take to get past it?

Hope Edelman: I live in a constant state of writer’s block. Most days I have to force myself to sit down and write, in the blind hope that producing sentences, even poorly written sentences, is the best antidote to self-doubt and fear. Most of the time it works.

Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Hope Edelman: When my first book came out in 1994, publishers did most of the work for the author. Now, mainly because of the internet and the downswing in the economy, authors have to do much more of the promotional work themselves. Three things I’ve learned are: 1. Social networks definitely sell books. 2. Niche marketing is valuable for getting a book into the hands of its target audience; and 3. Be prepared to spend an enormous amount of time and as much money as you can afford to accomplish this. No one knows your audience or cares more about reaching them than you do.

Moe: What is your latest release about?

Hope Edelman: It’s the story of taking my three-year-old daughter to Maya healers in Belize to get rid of her troubling imaginary friend, and saving my marriage and changing my world view in the process. We took the ten-day trip in December of 2000. I didn’t go down there with a plan to write a book but when we returned to L.A. I realized I’d experienced an extraordinary set of events that had a perfect beginning, middle, and end. I began writing the book about a year later, after my second daughter was born. I’d drop my older daughter in preschool, then drive down the coast until the baby fell asleep. She was usually out by the time we reached a small café on Ocean Avenue in Venice, and I’d wheel her inside in the stroller and type on my laptop until she woke up. Very J.K. Rowling of me, I know.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Hope Edelman: Ski, cook, travel, go to the theater, attend author readings. We spend every summer in Iowa, where my kids and I like to sit on the couch after dinner knitting hats and obsessively watching HGTV. We could probably redecorate your whole house for under $1000 by now.

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Hope Edelman: Writers don’t control the story; they’re in service to the story. Look inside the text for answers to your questions about how to write it. I know that sounds mystical, but it’s actually been a very practical method for me.

Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

Hope Edelman: Even crazier than I am now.

Moe: What is your favourite word?

Hope Edelman: Anemone. Because it’s so much fun to say out loud.

Originally published 10/22/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Visit Hope Edelman’s official website.

Lauren Grodstein – Author Interview

When she’s not working in the early hours of the day in the comfort of her home as a novelist she’s a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Rutgers-Camden University in New Jersey. This “unrepentant spy” lives in Moorestown with Ben, her husband of five years, and their fourteen month old son Nathaniel. She has been writing since childhood but became a published author 2002. Lauren has three books published under Goldstein and a young adult novel as Jessie Elliot. Her latest release is A Friend of the Family. Read on to learn more about it and this author’s writing habits.

Moe: When did you ‘know’ you were a writer?

Lauren GrodsteinLauren Grodstein: When I was a kid, I used to lie – not to get myself out of trouble, but just to make the world a more interesting place. I’d tell stories, embellish things that had actually happened, make up alternate worlds. It seemed clear to everyone, including myself, that I was either going to be a writer or some kind of con artist. Fortunately, I followed the more conscientious path.

Moe: What inspires you?

Lauren Grodstein: I like watching people interact – I’m especially inspired by watching parents and their children love, fight, and try to manage one another. I’m an unrepentant spy.

Moe: Every writer has a method to their writing. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Lauren Grodstein: I get up early – maybe 6:00 a.m. or so – brush my teeth, make some coffee, put my butt in a chair, and write eight pages. They don’t have to be good – they just have to get done. Generally speaking, I don’t get up until I’ve finished my pages. I do this every single day until I’ve finished a first draft. If the book comes easily, this daily grind lasts a few months. The editing that follows is more leisurely – and I let myself eat breakfast before I get started.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Lauren Grodstein: I revise as I go along – and it takes me about a year to get to the point where I would let another human being look at what I’ve done.

Moe: When you sit down to write is any thought given to the genre or type of readers?

Lauren Grodstein: Never. I’m only thinking about the characters, and their story, and staying true to what would actually happen next.

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Lauren Grodstein: I have a general plan, but I’m always open to the characters pointing me in another direction.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?

Lauren Grodstein: I tend to write about places I know very well, but I do make research visits as I go, in part because I love researching, and in part because I love travel. My new book is about a physician, so to write it I found myself interviewing a lot of physicians, reading what I could understand of JAMA and The New England Journal of Medicine, and going to online medical sites. I’m also fortunate to work on a college campus full of all kinds of experts, and I’m never afraid to tap them for insights.

Moe: Where do your characters come from? How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters?

Lauren Grodstein: My characters seem to spring into my imagination pretty fully formed. I’ll steal details of people’s lives, and my own, but I don’t steal entire personalities. It would be too hard – I’d always worry about getting it right instead of getting it good.

Moe: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If yes, what measures do you take to get past it?

Lauren Grodstein: All the time, often while I’m writing – I run out of steam mid-sentence. I usually start reading something I love, and that gets me going again.

Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Lauren Grodstein: 1. Find an agent you trust – I’ve been lucky enough to do so, and it’s made my whole career possible.
2. Say yes to as many opportunities as you can – they often lead to bigger opportunities. So if someone asks you to visit a bookstore, guest blog, or even just share your work with his or her writing group, do it, because you never know who you’ll meet or what will happen because you did this one simple thing.
3. A bad review serves a purpose: it makes the good reviews shine more brightly.

Moe: What is your latest release about?

Lauren Grodstein: The novel is about a physician, Pete Dizinoff, who is desperate to put his only son, a 20 year old named Alec, on the same path to success that his friends’ kids are following: a good college, a prominent career, a nice girlfriend, a life Pete can brag about. Instead, Alec drops out of college and moves into his parents’ garage, and, even worse, begins dating the daughter of Pete’s best friend, ten years older, with a terrible secret in her past. Pete tries to end the relationship, and in so doing, mismanages a patient’s care, leading to a medical malpractice suit.

I got the idea from listening to friends of mine who are doctors talk about medical malpractice. I was interested in the way this particular job allows no room for error whatsoever – no room for distraction, no room for miscalculation. In my job, I make mistakes all the time, and the worst thing that happens is – well, nothing too terrible really ever happens. Few jobs are as demanding as the physician’s, and few people are forgiven less. So that’s where the idea came from – I had a doctor’s voice in my head, and I knew he’d made a mistake, and as I kept writing, the mistake he made evolved into the novel.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Lauren Grodstein: I read a lot – everything from literary novels to trashy magazines. I park my kid in his stroller and take longs walks. And I love to travel – we’re always planning the next trip, even if we know it’s going to take us a while to get there.

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Lauren Grodstein: Find a community of writers – either on-line or in person. There are enough distractions in life that keep us from writing, but having a community of fellow readers and writers who are expecting you to complete something (and, even better, expecting to read what you complete) helps keep you going.

Read all the time – and read as broadly as you can, because you never know what book will inspire you. And I know, it’s almost as annoying as those suggestions that you stop buying lattes to save yourself seven bucks a week, but seriously, turn off the television. It’s amazing how much time you’ll find to read and write.

Keep going. A professor of mine once said that every talented writer eventually gets published somewhere; the danger is that many will give up in frustration before that happens. I think she’s right.

Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

Lauren Grodstein: If I weren’t a writer, and I were able to get through the cadaver dissection, I’d be a doctor.

Moe: What is your favourite word?

Lauren Grodstein: Lately, “mama” – but only when my son says it.

Originally published 10/12/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Visit Lauren Grodstein’s official website.

lnterview with Jo Ashworth

Using art, dance, and journaling, psychotherapist Jo Ashworth helps groups delve into and release their inner selves. This forty-five year old mother of three (teenagers) has been married for twenty-one years and currently resides in Mandurah, Western Australia. Read on to learn about how she uses journaling in her work and her life.

Moe: How long have you been journaling?

Jo Ashworth: I have been journaling for twenty years though I was first introduced to the technique at a youth camp when I was eighteen. I must have pigeon holed the technique only to pull it out years later after my first son was born with a disability. It really helped me to download all the confusing thoughts and process the feelings.

Moe: What kinds of journals do you have?

Jo Ashworth: I have probably experimented with them all. I prefer a spiral bound with no lines because I like freedom which kind of sets the stage for the journaling. I don’t use anything smaller than A4. It’s not very convenient to throw into a handbag but it inspires letting go, particularly if you combine some art.

Moe: How often do you journal?

Jo Ashworth: I try to journal every day. Even when I think I have nothing to say I am constantly awed at how much is there. Research suggests we think in excess of 70,000 thoughts per day. Most of these are unconscious so there is always material. The thing about thoughts is they produce feelings. If we can trace a feeling to our thoughts through journaling then the charge from the feeling dissipates. The belief behind the feeling arises in the exploring and this gives us an opportunity to decide whether it is actually of our own value system or has been modeled from family or society.

Moe: Why is journaling important to you?

Jo Ashworth: Journaling is my medicine. It is free, it is my truth and it constantly converts to peace. Something I aspire to in this world. It also offers me all the answers and guidance I need. It helps me to know myself. When we know ourselves well we know what we want and need. It downloads feelings and leaves me in a space to communicate clearly without blame, judgement and reaction from my feelings. From this place it is a peacemaker. It also then puts me in a place where I can feel compassion for others.

Moe: You were trained to facilitate journal courses, could you describe this?

Jo Ashworth: I decided I wanted to share the miracles I had experienced from journaling. I trained as a facilitator. This training taught me how to run groups and write up courses. I then researched some other authors’ experience of journaling and together with my experiences had plenty of material.

Moe: When did you become a psychotherapist?

Jo Ashworth: Three years ago. As my processing went deeper I found the groups were going deeper. I needed to train to be able to hold that space and help others continually forward their own journey.

Moe: Can you tell us about your weekend workshops?

Jo Ashworth: My work is constantly evolving. Over the last couple of years I have been including art and no longer extol journal writing but journaling. Our bodies are a journal and have oh so much to teach us. I always use the body in the work now. Feelings can have a shape or color.

For example a knot in the stomach could look like a matted green ball of wool. Extracting this visually is really important. To be able to see it offers further insights. We also always use collage and I inspire people to get a display file and start a library of images that invoke a reaction from them from the newspaper of magazines or anywhere. You begin to see themes coming through. Mine are Body, Family, Home, Environment, Words, Colour, Art, Inspiring articles and people, Cultures, Travel and Fashion. The headers evolve naturally as a result of what you are drawn to tearing out. These images are journal prompts. You can pull one out and glue it into your journal and dialogue with it to see what it has to teach you about yourself.

When we have a feeling about anything, even if it seems unrelated to our life it is actually mirroring something deep inside. The visuals are fantastic for forwarding your journey. My most recent work has included full body collages in response to the chakra psychologies, for example base chakra issues relate to survival, prosperity, family and belonging. This is an awesome prefect. Through various prompts an image depicting the journey is pasted on and we go from there. It is very healing to see your full sized body staring back at you.

Moe: One of the main questions writers ask about is discipline. Do you think discipline is important in journaling and could you provide a few tips on improving one’s journaling discipline?

Jo Ashworth: The best disciple is LISTENING to your body in this busy world. From this space a regular journaling journey naturally evolves. Track a feeling and see where it takes you in the journal. Unravelling dreams can be a good discipline. All dream images are about ourselves and have something to gift us. Simply have a conversation with the characters. Julia Cameron’s morning pages can not be ignored. They are very powerful. Journaling simply has to become part of our every day life. There just is no other way. I cannot extol the virtues of journaling enough. It is important to know journaling isn’t just about writing. In fact when other techniques are integrated it becomes a holistic approach to our wellbeing.

Interviewed for the Journaling site at BellaOnline.

Joyce Hinnefeld – Author Interview

To be a success in the different areas of our lives one has to find balance. It seems Joyce Hinnefeld has. She currently resides in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where she divides her time being a mother, wife, writer and college professor; and still finds the energy to be physically active. Joyce has been writing about the extraordinary and the beautiful for over twenty years and will be celebrating the paperback release of In Hovering Flight, her third novel, this month. I hope you enjoy learning more about this literary fiction author.

Moe: When did you ‘know’ you were a writer?

Joyce Hinnefeld: I think it became a reality for me when I was in college. Suddenly it seemed urgent to me to write, to record what I saw (at that point) as the strangeness all around me. As time has passed I believe I’ve softened a bit, and now I also hope to record the beauty, the sweetness–but still the strangeness too.

Moe: What inspires you?

Joyce HinnefeldJoyce Hinnefeld: Often I’m inspired by place, by landscape, and also by history. And as characters take shape in my mind it becomes important to me to tell their stories.

Moe: Every writer has a method to their writing. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Joyce Hinnefeld: I don’t really have a typical day. Each day is different, because of the responsibilities of taking care of my daughter, our pets, etc., and my teaching schedule during the academic year. I guess today, August 19, was a fairly typical late summer day for me. I got up early and worked on edits and revisions of a novel manuscript for an hour or so, went for a quick run, walked the dog, and then spent several hours at home, doing laundry, cooking and spending time with my daughter, etc. Then my husband took over at home, and I spent the afternoon working more on that novel manuscript. Some days I can devote more time than that to writing, but most days less. That will be particularly true (the less time part) when I go back to teaching in a couple weeks.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?

Joyce Hinnefeld: Well, I wrote a first draft of In Hovering Flight in about a year, but it didn’t make it into print for a few years after I completed that first draft. The novel I’m working on now is a major revision of something I started over ten years ago. My collection of short stories, Tell Me Everything, brought together over a period close to ten years. So maybe a reasonable average here would be 5 or 6 years. I’m hoping (as I get older!) that it starts to go faster.

Recently I’ve been trying to push through and write complete drafts, of chapters at least, before I get bogged down in editing and revising. That seems to work better for me than thinking and tinkering a lot too early in the process.

Moe: When you sit down to write is any thought given to the genre?

Joyce Hinnefeld: When I write fiction it’s just automatically literary fiction; this isn’t out of a sense of superiority or contempt, it’s just a product of not knowing enough about genre fiction to try to write it. I’ve written some poetry, at times when, I guess, things weren’t going smoothly for me with the writing of fiction; I hope to write more, and not because of struggles with writing fiction. I also hope to write more nonfiction, which feels a bit like foreign terrain but also a place where I want to establish a voice.

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Joyce Hinnefeld: A mixture of both. I need some sort of plan to get started, but things go better when I’m open to changing directions and exploring new ideas.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?

Joyce Hinnefeld: Yes, it feels important to me to visit the places I write about. The book I’ve recently reworked is set in Kentucky; I spent a good bit of time there way back in 1998, back when I was starting the project, and I went back for several days this spring (to Berea College and its surroundings) because I needed to have the experience of being there, the feeling of the place, in my mind, and also in my body, again.

I did a whole lot of research for this Kentucky book, way back when, and more recently, in connection with changes and new developments in my characters, etc. I also did a lot of research for In Hovering Flight, starting with auditing a college-level course called Biology of the Birds. Research is a big part of the fun of writing longer fiction, for me.

Moe: Where do your characters come from? How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters?

Joyce Hinnefeld: I don’t know where my characters come from really—observing people, wondering about people, wondering about people’s lives in the past and in places that are different from the world I live in. I’m sure there’s a whole lot of me in most of my characters; I can usually pinpoint certain things after I’ve finished a piece of writing. There are aspects of people I know of course; that’s the nature of developing characters, I think—observing people you know and thinking about why they are the way they are.

Moe: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

Joyce Hinnefeld: I’ve suffered from self-doubt and fear at various points; I think that’s what writer’s block is. Lately I feel less fearful and more prepared to trust myself and my voice, and I long for bigger blocks of time to do that.

Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Joyce Hinnefeld: Neither writing nor publishing gets easier after your first publication.

Readers teach you things about yourself and your writing that it’s impossible to see on your own.

Promotion of your work and of yourself is a necessary evil if you want to be able to continue publishing.

Moe: What is your latest release about?

Joyce Hinnefeld: (Quoting directly from my web site here.) In Hovering Flight is the story of the struggles and triumphs of bird artist and activist Addie Sturmer Kavanagh, ornithologist and musician Tom Kavanagh, and their daughter, poet Scarlet Kavanagh. It’s a novel about mothers, daughters, and art; about illness, death, and burial; about fragile eco-systems and tenacious human relationships–all explored through characters who are inspired by the lives, and particularly the songs, of birds.

When people ask me when or how I got started on In Hovering Flight, I’m never sure how far back I should go. I think of a scene I wrote years ago, maybe around 2000 or 2001: a distraught young woman driving into a seaside town, to the home of an older friend. Eventually that young woman became Scarlet, the older friend became Cora, and the seaside town (which, back then, was Chincoteague, Virginia) became the fictional Cider Cove, New Jersey. I also knew, very early on, that I wanted bird song to figure prominently in the novel, for the simple reason that for as long as I can remember, the sound of a singing bird has never failed to soothe me.

How to write a novel about bird song? Well, make one of your characters an ornithologist. Have him marry a bird artist who becomes an angry and disillusioned, but ultimately hopeful, environmental activist. Give them a sensitive daughter who has to come to terms with her complicated parents, not to mention several other complicated people that she also happens to love.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Joyce Hinnefeld: Read, cook, spend time with my family and with friends, go for walks or bike rides or runs, take yoga classes.

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Joyce Hinnefeld: If you haven’t already done so, make a concerted effort to find a writers’ group; put time and thought into making it a group of writers whose work, and whose tastes as readers, you admire or at least respect. Then make sure the group has some ground rules, so that you really get work done, so that you have meaningful deadlines for getting work done and to your group for feedback.

Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

Joyce Hinnefeld: Maybe a naturalist, or an art historian.

Moe: What is your favourite word?

Joyce Hinnefeld: Namaste, for all it means, for the way it also speaks to the Quaker understanding of the light in everyone. Also for the fact that it usually means I’ve made it to the end of a yoga class!

Originally published 8/24/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Supporting Women Authors

Being a woman oriented site I tend to focus on women authors more than men authors, mostly because I’m a woman and because they have had a hard go of it for the last century in the world of book writing. Writing books, like most things in the 1800s and early 1900s was left to men.

When women first entered the profession of writing and publishing they did so under an alias because it was frowned upon to have women write, let alone be successful at it. It was often thought if a women wrote novels she did so because she was impoverished. Today if a woman chooses to use a pseudonym she does so for privacy or because she writes in a number of genres and doesn’t want to confuse her audiences.

Buy at Art.com
Writer Carson McCullers

While women authors are accepted more for their writing talents than they were a century ago they are still paid less for their words than men. That’s just another reason I like to make an extra effort to promote women authors. Despite J. K. Rowlings being paid the obscene amount of $300 million in one year, this is not an industry standard. Not even for men. The highest paid male is James Patterson at $50 million. The next highest paid woman is Danielle Steel at $30 million followed by Janet Evanovich at $17 million. As you might expect a literary fiction author doesn’t tend to overflow their bank account.

Here are thirteen of my favorite women writers that this literary fiction site has supported in the past. Please pop over and read their interviews, visit their websites and of course buy their books.